February 26, 2024

Five Reasons Why We Engage in Reassurance Seeking

Relationships can be complicated, and sometimes, we find ourselves needing more reassurance than usual. It’s natural to want to feel loved, valued, and secure in our relationships, but what if that need becomes constant? Why do we feel this way? How does it affect our mental health and relationships? In this blog post, we’ll explore why some people need constant reassurance in their relationships and how to manage those feelings. Let’s examine some psychological explanations about needing constant reassurance in relationships. 

The Reassurance Cycle

Often, we find ourselves excessively seeking reassurance from others when we sense unease in our relationships. This need for validation typically links to hypervigilance and certain fears that stem from attachment issues, a history of abandonment, low self-esteem, communication problems, and unmet needs within the relationship. We’ll delve into each of these aspects soon, but first, let’s comprehend the cycle of reassurance seeking.


Reassurance Seeking Cycle


David Osborne and Christopher Williams have proposed a four-step cycle of reassurance seeking. It starts with an anxiety phase, where we begin to feel anxious about our relationship. This prompts us to seek reassurance, which consequently reduces our anxiety. However, this often negatively impacts us or those around us. As Osborne and Williams highlight, “Excessive reassurance seeking can be addictive,” leading us to spend an excessive amount of time mulling over our relationships.

At the heart of this behavior lies our need for safety and security. In the rest of this post, we’ll investigate the reasons behind our excessive reassurance-seeking habits and discuss ways to heal from them.


1) Insecure Attachment Style

Attachment theory suggests that how we connect with others in our adult lives is heavily influenced by our experiences during childhood. If you had parents or caregivers who were inconsistent or didn’t provide a secure base for you, it could impact your attachment style as an adult.


An insecure attachment style can manifest in different ways, but one of the most common is seeking reassurance in relationships. People with an insecure attachment style often have deep-seated fears of abandonment or rejection. They may feel anxious when their partner isn’t around, worry about being replaced, or feel like they’re not good enough for their partner. These insecurities can lead them to seek constant reassurance from their partner that they are loved and wanted.


While seeking reassurance is okay, it becomes problematic when it becomes excessive or demanding. It puts undue pressure on the other person and creates a cycle of insecurity that feeds into itself. The more someone seeks reassurance, the more anxious they become when they don’t get it, leading them to seek even more validation.


Specifically, an anxious and avoidant attachment style is associated with feelings of insecurity in the relationship. For example, when someone with anxious attachment is triggered, they behave in a clingy and possessive manner. They might show the urge to control their partner’s behavior and whereabouts. On the other hand, avoidant attached individuals find it challenging to commit to a relationship, but once they do, they experience a significant amount of anxiety and fear of abandonment. In an attempt to regulate themselves, they embark on assurance-seeking from others. 

Finding a path through the complexities of insecure attachment requires patience, understanding, and often professional guidance. If you recognize these traits in yourself, remember that developing a more secure attachment style over time is possible. The journey starts with self-awareness—acknowledging your patterns and the emotions driving them allows you to approach your relationships more mindfully.


Engaging in therapy can be incredibly beneficial. A mental health professional can offer strategies to understand and manage your attachment styles. Additionally, open communication with your partner, grounded in trust and empathy, can help alleviate the need for constant reassurance. It’s an ongoing process of sharing your feelings without fear of judgment and working together to create a foundation of mutual support.


For those in a partnership with someone who seeks constant reassurance, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy. It can be challenging to balance supporting your partner while maintaining your boundaries, but it’s crucial for the relationship’s health. Encourage your partner to express their needs and fears and collaboratively work on understanding the root causes. Integrating consistent, reassuring gestures into your daily routine provides a sense of stability and love for your partner.


We all need reassurance at times—it’s part of being human. The key is to foster a relationship wherein these needs are met with a balance of understanding, self-growth, and mutual respect. Remember that it’s okay to seek help, and it’s okay to talk about these struggles with someone who can guide you toward a healthier approach to love and attachment.

2) Fear of Abandonment

This need for constant reassurance is often rooted in a fear of abandonment. When we’re afraid that someone might leave us, we try to cling to our partner as tightly as possible, hoping that they won’t go anywhere by doing so. You may need your partner to tell you they love you multiple times a day or check in on you when they’re out with friends. 


But why do we feel this way? For many people, it stems from past experiences with relationships or even early attachment experiences, as we mentioned earlier. These experiences create a deep-seated fear that others will eventually abandon us, leaving us alone and vulnerable.


Unfortunately, seeking reassurance from our partners isn’t always practical. It can sometimes have the opposite effect and push them away. Constantly needing validation can be exhausting for both parties involved, leading to resentment over time. 

Addressing abandonment issues in a relationship requires compassionate self-work and patience. It’s about gently unraveling the threads of past experiences that have led to those deep fears and creating new, healthier narratives about self-worth and relationships.


One powerful step is turning toward self-love and acceptance. By acknowledging your worth independently of anyone else, you begin to erode the foundation upon which abandonment fears are built. Ask yourself, “What qualities do I love about myself?” Reflecting on your strengths and successes can bolster your self-esteem, reassuring you that you are worthy, with or without external validation.


Practicing mindfulness can also be beneficial. It enables you to recognize when fear triggers the need for reassurance so you can address it calmly rather than in desperation. Has there ever been a moment when you caught yourself seeking reassurance not because of what was happening at that moment but because your fear of the past seemed to be shadowing the present?


Therapy, as we’ve mentioned, can be a sanctuary for those grappling with abandonment issues. A therapist acts as a guide, helping to explore and heal past wounds that are often the culprits behind these fears. They can offer strategies to manage anxiety, how to communicate your needs without fear, and how to build trust in your partner’s commitment and your resilience.


Keep in mind that the journey to overcoming fears of abandonment is not a solitary one. Lean on friends, family, or a support group—anyone who can provide an empathetic ear and remind you of your value. After all, isn’t it true that we are all looking for healthy connections that affirm and uplift us at the end of the day?


Lastly, keep the conversation with your partner open and honest. It is okay to express your feelings, but it is also essential to listen and understand their perspective. How can both of you work together to create a secure foundation for your relationship?

3) Low Self-Esteem

Like the fear of abandonment, low self-esteem can stem from many sources – childhood experiences, societal pressures, trauma – but one common factor is a lack of self-confidence. When we don’t believe in ourselves or trust that we’re capable and worthy of relationships, we look to others for affirmation. Again, this need for validation isn’t inherently problematic; humans are social creatures who crave connection and acceptance. However, when seeking reassurance becomes a compulsive behavior that takes precedence over other aspects of life (such as work, hobbies, and other relationships), it can signal an imbalance that needs addressing.


The problem with relying too heavily on external validation is that it pressures those around us to provide constant support. Our partners may feel like they’re walking on eggshells around us or become frustrated by our constant need for attention. Friends may begin to distance themselves if they think they’re being used solely to boost someone else’s ego. Even family members may find themselves reluctant to engage with us if they fear triggering feelings of inadequacy.


Furthermore, constantly seeking reassurance can reinforce negative beliefs about ourselves rather than counter them. If we only feel good about ourselves when someone else tells us we’re worthy, attractive, or talented, what happens when that person isn’t around? We may feel even worse than before because we’ve come to rely on their validation as a crutch. This can create a cycle of seeking reassurance that becomes increasingly difficult to break.

In addressing low self-esteem, we walk the delicate path between self-compassion and self-improvement. Let’s use a metaphor to drive this point—imagine low self-esteem as a garden overgrown with doubt and harsh self-criticism. How might we tend to this garden and encourage the growth of confidence and self-respect?


A first step in this nurturing process could be practicing affirmation. But let’s be clear: affirmations are not simply about repeating positive phrases—it’s about deeply connecting with their truth. What if you willfully acknowledged your accomplishments, no matter how small? Each intentional affirmation is like planting a seed of positivity in your garden.


Reflecting on past successes can be incredibly uplifting as well. Remember when you overcame a tough challenge or the last time you made someone smile? These memories are like sunlight and water, essential for your garden to flourish. And while recollecting, have you ever considered how your unique qualities contribute to the lives of others?


Sometimes, the garden needs expert care. Professional guidance, like therapy or counseling, is not a sign of weakness; it’s akin to calling in a master gardener. Working with a therapist help us remove the deep-rooted weeds of our negative beliefs. Have you ever sought such support and noticed its transformative effect?


But this garden is not tended alone; social support is its rich soil. Cultivating a support network of friends, family, or groups creates a nurturing environment where self-esteem can thrive. Leaning to others healthily – not codependently – allows us to check our inner critic against reality. It also provides connections based on mutual support and validation. 

4) Communication Breakdown

Communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. However, even the most loving couples can experience communication breakdowns that leave one or both partners uncertain and insecure. When we don’t feel heard or understood by our partners, it’s natural to seek reassurance. 


It’s easy to feel frustrated when communication breaks down with our partners. We might feel like they’re not listening to us or don’t care about our feelings. But it’s important to remember that communication is a two-way street – if you’re feeling unheard or misunderstood, something may be going on with your partner, too. They could be dealing with their stresses or anxieties, affecting their communication ability.


Sometimes, the need for reassurance arises when a communication breakdown exists between partners. If one partner is not expressing their needs or feelings clearly, the other may assume they are doing something wrong or not meeting expectations.

Open Communication

Addressing a communication breakdown requires a gentle yet proactive approach. Firstly, it’s essential to foster trust where both partners feel safe expressing their thoughts. Can you think of a time when creating such a space led to a breakthrough in understanding? It begins with listening – not just hearing the words but seeking to grasp the unspoken feelings behind them. This creates a connection that goes beyond the surface.


Let’s imagine your relationship as a team working together. When communication stalls, it’s like your team losing coordination. By bringing to the table an authentic desire to understand your partner and asking, “What can we do better?” you’re already repairing the bridge. It’s essential to remember that while you might have different viewpoints, your common goal is to work through issues, not against each other.


This journey may involve learning new ways to express yourself — perhaps you could practice basic techniques, like “I” statements that focus on your feelings rather than “You” statements that might come across as accusatory. Have you noticed how shifting your language could transform the dynamic of a conversation?


Sometimes, despite best efforts, we find this task overwhelming. In such cases, there’s no shame in seeking external support. Much like how a coach can guide a team to victory, a couples therapist can help navigate these muddles of miscommunication. 


Encountering a communication breakdown isn’t a sign of failure; instead, it’s an opportunity for growth. Do you remember when overcoming a communication challenge with your partner brought you closer? When we fight fair in relationship, it can draw us close to our partner. By addressing any lapses in communication sincerely and empathetically, you strengthen your connection and the resilience of your relationship.

5) Unmet Emotional Needs

We all have emotional needs to be fulfilled to feel happy and healthy. When these needs are not met, we can feel anxious, insecure, or even depressed. It’s a natural response to seek reassurance when feeling uncertain or vulnerable. Seeking reassurance can take many forms, from constantly checking in with our partners to seeking validation from friends or colleagues.


For example, if you experience a sudden shift in your partner’s desire to be physically intimate with you, or they seem distracted recently, it can cause you to feel distant and insecure about your relationship with your partner. If the issue continues, we may catastrophize into thinking that our partner is no longer invested in the relationship. 

Addressing unmet emotional needs within a relationship involves nurturing a compassionate space where both partners feel valued and heard. Have you ever longed for a deeper connection yet unsure how to bridge that gap? In the spirit of understanding and collaboration, initiating an open dialogue with your partner is essential. 


Begin by sharing your feelings without assigning blame. Use “I” statements to convey your emotions and clarify what you need from your partner to feel fulfilled. For example, “I feel disconnected when we don’t spend quality time together; I need us to prioritize our evenings together to reconnect.” Have you noticed how expressing your needs directly can pave the way for mutual support? 


In this heartfelt exchange, practice active listening. This does not merely mean hearing the words but absorbing the emotional subtext. This shows your partner that their concerns and needs matter to you. Have you ever realized after a candid conversation just how much you were missing in terms of what your partner needed? 


Remember that fulfillment in a relationship is a shared responsibility—it takes empathy, effort, and, sometimes, a renewed commitment from both sides to support each other’s emotional well-being. If traversing this intimate terrain becomes too challenging, consider enlisting the help of a relationship therapist.  


A relationship can become a source of strength and happiness when emotional needs are met. Can you recall when addressing your unmet needs led to a more harmonious bond? Fostering this open communication built on trust and empathy deepens the relationship, enriching both partners’ lives.

Final Words

Have you noticed that almost all the issues discussed have a similar approach to addressing them? We are hurt in relationships and need nurturing relationships to heal from them. Seeking support to recover from attachment issues, abandonment, or insecurities that hinder our ability to communicate effectively is not a sign of weakness—it’s an act of bravery. 


Your relationship can only grow as much as you’re willing to invest in it. By actively working on building trust, understanding, and empathy within your partnership, you create a strong foundation for addressing any challenges that may arise.


And also, practice kindness and patience with yourself. Growth takes time and effort, but the journey is worth it when you see your relationship flourishing. Keep an open mind, communicate honestly and authentically, and don’t be afraid to seek support when needed. Your relationship deserves the effort, and you deserve a fulfilling and happy partnership.

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